Audiobook Review: The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

6 03 2018

Armored Saint

The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

Series: The Sacred Throne, Book 1

Narrated by Michi Barall

Recorded Books

Grade: B

I’ll be honest, I am hesitant to start any new Epic Fantasy series, even by authors I love. I tend to enjoy the occasional fantasy but they take a lot of commitment and I tend to be more of a contemporary science fiction guy. That being said, I have heard Myke Cole talk about this series for a while and I was intrigued about it. So, I started The Armored Saint with some hopeful optimism. At first, I was a bit disappointed. Not that it wasn’t good, it’s just what I heard Myke talk so passionately about wasn’t there yet. It was definitely a well envisioned world and there was moments it almost felt like a companion piece to Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle. So much of the book is about creating the world and letting us meet the characters, there was a bit of a “been there” feel to it. It wasn’t until perhaps the latter third of the novel that I began to get a feel that this trip would be something entirely unique, and that Myke just needed to get the ball rolling. Finally, with a confrontation and a twist Myke’s passion finally came to life for me. In the end Myke gave me what I was looking for, and a bit of a surprise on top of that. This is just the first chapter of this tale, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

Early going, I wasn’t a fan of Michi Barall’s narration. In the early going, the pace felt forced. In a strange bit of a twist, she seemed to handle the male character voices much better than the female ones. As the book progressed I eases into her style a little more. As more action and conflict arose, her pacing picked up and she delivered. While not a perfect performance, it was strong enough in the end to keep me in the game.

Audiobook Review: Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole

6 02 2014

Breach Zone (Shadow Ops, Bk. 3) by Myke Cole

Read by Korey Jackson

Recorded Books

13 Hrs 54 Min

Genre: Military Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: While Breach Zone’s high concept scenario should thrill any speculative fiction fan, the true heart of the tale comes in Cole’s intimate development of the relationship between two characters. Breach Zone asks big question and never provides easy answers, but what it does provide is a whole lotta fun and characters you become truly invested in. 

Grade: B+

In Breach Zone, Myke Cole rounds out his Shadow Ops trilogy with a well conceived and solidly executed completion of the story that began in Control Point. When I first began Breach Zone, I was a bit worried. The concepts behind the tale, a siege of New York City by magical otherworldly beings under the leadership of a disgruntled and dangerous women, was brilliant, yet part of me wondered if the concept was too big for the writer. While Cole’s action scenes are solid, the strength of his writing came in his ability to create realistic, morally conflicted characters. I wondered if the big time blockbuster scenario would drown out the essence of the story. Yet, Cole took the story in a direction I was totally not expecting. While probably his biggest novel to date, it was also his most intimate, expanding the stories of two peripheral characters in a heartfelt way that felt like a natural progression to the story. While goblin battles and magical warfare was going on in big ways, the story proved to be about two characters and this conflict became the soul of the story, giving Breach Zone the humanity it needed. Breach Zone asks big question and never provides easy answers, but what it does provide is a whole lotta fun and characters you become truly invested in. 

After some pacing issues early on in the first novel, Korey Jackson has seemed to really find his stride in this series. It’s not easy for a series narrator to take on a series where the main protagonist shifts book to book, yet Jackson handles this seamlessly. Jackson’s reading sucked me into the tale, breathing life into these characters. His narration drives the story forward, keeping the listener on their toes. Cole brings the first arc of hi Shadow Ops series to a strong finish, and allows a good framework for more tales to come.

Audiobook Review: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole

4 02 2013

Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole (Shadow Ops, Bk. 2)

Read by Korey Jackson

Recorded Books

Length: 13 Hrs 55 Min

Genre: Military Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Fortress Frontier is an important step, not just for Myke Cole as an author, but for Fantasy in general. It’s a classic adventure filled quest tale that enhances the tropes instead of relying on them, set within a brilliant and refreshing world. The Action is crisp, the characters real and my only disappointment was arriving at the end.

Grade: A

If you have followed this blog at all you will know I am a big fan of military science fiction. I myself have no first hand military knowledge and most of what I know comes from books, movies and the very few times my father spoke about his time as a Marine in Vietnam. While I enjoy a good battles scene, one of my favorite aspects of Military Science Fiction is logistics. I like the early planning stages, the training, the forming of the teams, the development of the weapons they will need to fight in the terrains of a science fiction setting, the innovative ways to handle unforeseen problems and placing proper pieces in place to form and protect the supply lines. When all that is done right, the big battles scenes seem to come off even better. Yet, it seems within every military science fiction novel there is a character that I call bureaucratic nemesis. This is a person who is on the same side as our hero, but has a small sphere of influence which he controls and uses that influence to place obstacles in our hero’s way. This character tends to have a bureaucratic position, out of harms way with little or no actual combat experience. This is the character that is often referred to with the acronym REMF, Rear Echelon Mother "Fornicator." Yet, this has always sort of bothered me because many people from Sun Tzu to George Patton have said that war is won through logistics. I understand the desire to make front line people heroes, but this doesn’t necessarily make all rear echelon people little Napoleons who are willing to risk soldier’s lives in order to keep their little bit of power intact. A good bureaucrat can be a powerful ally. This is one reason I was quite interested when I learned that the latest Shadow Ops novel, Fortress Frontier, would have a new perspective character who worked as a Logistical officer.

Fortress Frontier continues the Shadow Ops series about a world where people who manifest magical powers are placed under the control of the military. After the events of Control Point, FOB Frontier is cut off from the home plane, and under constant attack from unfriendly Goblin forces. Col Alan Bookbinder, a logistical officer at the Pentagon, has recently come up latent with a strange new power and is sent to the Forward Operating Base in the alternate plane called The Source. Finding himself in a direct command position for the first time in his career, Bookbinder must try to keep the Fortress supplied, create a viable defense against the increasing encroaching Goblin forces, while looking for a way to reconnect with home. I loved the first novel of this series, Control Point with some reservations. For Fortress Frontier, all the reservations are gone. This sequel exceeds the original in almost every way. Cole managed to turn one of the biggest criticisms of Control Points into the strength of Fortress Frontier. Many people complained about the main character, Oscar Britton’s confliction and indecisiveness in the first novel, because if you suddenly found yourself with magical powers, and being hunted by the very organization that you spent your life serving, you would know exactly what to do. I found the conflicts and indecision of Oscar to be frustrating but realistic. Alan Bookbinder is himself full of conflict and self doubt, but it manifests itself in a different way. Bookbinder becomes a more endearing hero, the selfless man who finds inner strength to achieve what he never thought possible. I like both characters, Britton and Bookbinder and personally, I feel the strength of Fortress Frontier wasn’t that Bookbinder was a more likable character, but that he brings more of a balance to the tale. Cole has created two very different roads that lead to the same destination. In essence the Bookbinder perspective is about a character discovering his ability to lead within an organization structure, while Oscar Britton’s perspective is about leadership without the underlining discipline and structure of the establishment and its moral issues. You could feel the maturation of Cole as an author as you followed both paths and how they influenced the other. Cole also succeeds at breathing new life into Fantasy. Like Peter V. Brett, Cole manages to utilize classic mythology yet bends it to his will, creating new and fascinating creatures and placing them within a vivid and unique world. It’s refreshing to have a Military Based genre novel, where the author isn’t trying to force any sort of ideology onto you, but instead embraces classic themes like service, responsibility and moral honesty. Fortress Frontier is an important step, not just for Myke Cole as an author, but for Fantasy in general. It’s a classic adventure filled quest tale that enhances the tropes instead of relying on them, set within a brilliant and refreshing world. The Action is crisp, the characters real and my only disappointment was arriving at the end.

Korey Jackson continues as narrator for this series, and like Cole, manages to top his solid performance in Control Point. My major criticism of Jackson in the first novel was with his pacing early in the novel. He seemed a bit unsure of the world at first, and it affected his ability to capture the narrative flow. This was not a problem at all in Fortress Frontier. Jackson captures the rhythms of the tale from the first words, and never loses his flow. He has a deep, resonant voice that brings a depth to the novel yet is also a bit edgy and unique. His characterizations are stronger as well creating distinct voices for character’s both human, and otherwise. He captures the inner conflict within Bookbinder perfectly. One of my major complaints with narrators is an inability to delineate between inner and external dialogue. Here Jackson manages to portray Bookbinder’s external "fake it til you make it" attitude, then soften his tone for Bookbinder’s inner thoughts, adding a taste of desperation. My only small complain is that during the action scenes I felt he could have added a bit more urgency to his reading. His slow, confident pacing works well in much of the novel, but at points it would have been nice to have him racket up the tension during the climatic moments of the story. All in All, Fortress Frontier is a great listen. I was enthralled with the tale from the moment I hit play, and sucked it into my mind like sweet nectar. It will have to be an exceptionally strong audiobook year for Myke Cole not to end up even higher on my End of Year favorite list.

Audiobook Review: Control Point by Myke Cole

14 02 2012

Control Point by Myke Cole (Shadow Ops, Bk. 1)

Read by Corey Jackson

Recorded Books

Length: 15 Hrs 3 Min

Genre: Military Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Control Point delivered what I thought it would, tons of action, a fascinating world, and an authentic military feel. Yet, it’s what I didn’t expect that put this over the top for me. A hero I’m still not quite sure I can believe in and a blurred line between the good guys and the bad guys that lead to an emotionally devastating climax. Control Point is a novel that will be bouncing around in my head for a long, long time, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Grade: A

This first part of 2012 was full of new release audiobooks that I was really looking forward to. One of my most anticipated releases was the debut of Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series, called Control Point. One of the reasons that my anticipation was so high, was I first discovered the existence of this series back in July of 2011. As a big fan of military science fiction series, I am always on the lookout for new series. Some of my favorite audiobook experiences have been military science fiction, especially John Ringo and David Weber’s Prince Roger series, and anything by Jack Campbell, aka John Hemry. Yet, with Myke Cole, there was a new added twist, his Shadow Ops is not really military science fiction, but a Military Urban Fantasy series. Basically, what I was picturing was modern day Urban Warfare, but with magic. This was something I haven’t seen before, and was excited about the concept. Also, the fact that Cole has served in the US military, in multiple functions, and has the experience to deliver an authentic account of the modern soldier made me even more interested to see what he had to offer. So, as release day grew closer, I was quite excited. I was looking for a fun, action filled  Military Fantasy, written by someone who knows the way a soldier thinks, and what it means to be a piece in the machinery of the US armed forces. Yet, I don’t think I was really prepared for what I was going to experience with this novel.

The World has experienced an Awakening. A small percentage of the earth’s population begins to manifest latent magical talents. As you may expect, this shakes things up pretty well, and governments must adapt to these new powers. In the US, anyone manifesting a magical power must turn themselves into the government, or be hunted down as a “selfer.” Oscar Britton is one of those hunters, until he begins to manifest a very rare and dangerous power, a power that is strictly prohibited by the government, and will probably lead to his death. Cole has created a fascinating near future world that echoes many of the same issues we are dealing with now. He also constructs an interesting and logical magical system. One of my worries was that people who are hesitant about magical fantasy may have trouble with the magic system but Cole bases them on very base ideas, and allows you to get comfortable with their execution, before adding in some interesting twists. As expected. Cole builds a solid foundation with his changed world, but what he does with it is what I wasn’t prepared for. Our main character Oscar Britton’s world is shattered when he discovers his magical talent, and as a soldier he must fight his sense of duty, what he believed to be right with his sense of survival, and his belief in his rights as an American citizen. I found Oscar to be frustrating and at times, uneven. The major theme of this novel is control. Oscar fights to control his new powers, while he also battles to control his own destiny. He goes back and forth with himself, seemingly changing perspectives at a drop of his fat. He is often self delusional, and develops conflicting rationale for what he does, and what is being done to him. He is hyper critical of others, often for doing something he has done himself or will soon do but, is always trying to do what he feels is right. I was so conflicted about Oscar and his decisions. I wanted to like him, I wanted the decisions he made to be right, but I became more and more frustrated with him as the novel progressed. Now, please don’t mistake this criticism of the character for criticism of the author, because it is just the opposite. Cole has created one of the most human characters I have read in a long time. There was one moment in this novel, where I was simply devastated at the decision Oscar was about to make, and had to stop what I was doing, and was actually pleading with him in my head. I’m still not sure what I think about this character and the choices he made, but I was and still am riveted by them. I really can’t think of a better example in fiction where the shades of gray were this explosive. Control Point delivered what I thought it would, tons of action, a fascinating world, and an authentic military feel. Yet, it’s what I didn’t expect that put this over the top for me. If you want a tale with a clearly defined line between the good guys and the bad guys, and a main character who is a hero, incapable of making a wrong choice, then Control Point probably isn’t for you.  But, if you like a story that will make you think, a character who acts like the infallible human being he is, and morality colored by perspective instead of being force fed to you by the writer, then you absolutely must read Control Point.

This is my first time experiencing Corey Jackson’s narration and the first thing I noticed was the rich, strong tones of his voice. Jackson was a wonderful choice for the voice of Oscar Britton. I did have a few small issues with the overall production though, and I think for the most part this was due to direction and editing. In the early parts of the novel, Jackson reads with a very slow, deliberate pace, with pauses between sentences that seems just a half second too long. While this worked fine in the fast paced action scenes, it became a bit distracting during some of the slower moments, and I think affected his ability to match the rhythm of the novel. Yet, eventually, the performance smoothed out, and he began to take on the perfect storytelling flow. I found his narration in the second half of the novel to be spot on and memorizing.  Jackson doesn’t do a lot to differentiate character voices in many circumstances, just a slight change in tone or cadence, but it works well. I absolutely loved his vocal interpretation of Marty, and I felt he did a good job with the female characters as well. Overall I was very pleased with Jackson’s performance and will be looking for more of his work in the future. I highly recommend Control Point to fans of fast paced action thrillers, along the lines of Jonathon Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, as well as fans of science fiction and fantasy.